Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
Multi-Coloured Swap Shop Titles.jpg
Series Titles
Starring Noel Edmonds
Keith Chegwin
John Craven
Maggie Philbin (series 3–6)
Theme music composer Mike Batt (series 1–5)
BA Robertson (series 6)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 6
No. of episodes 146
Running time 2hrs 45mins
Original network BBC1
Picture format 4:3
Original release 2 October 1976 (1976-10-02) – 27 March 1982 (1982-03-27)

Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, more commonly known simply as Swap Shop, was a British children's television programme. It was broadcast on Saturday mornings on BBC1 for 146[1] episodes in six series between 1976 and 1982. It was ground-breaking in many ways: by being live, sometimes up to three hours in length, and using the phone-in format extensively for the first time on TV.

Its creation was thought by many[who?] to be the BBC's response to the growing success of ITV's Tiswas—although at the time the latter was only broadcast in the ATV region in the Midlands and had yet to be taken up by other ITV franchises around the country.


The show was hosted by Noel Edmonds and his associates from the beginning were Keith Chegwin, John Craven and later, in 1978, Maggie Philbin. The show's presenters formed a pop group called Brown Sauce in December 1981 and released a single called "I Wanna be a Winner". The song peaked at number 15 in the UK Singles Chart and stayed in the Top 40 for a total of nine weeks.

Also featured was Posh Paws, a stuffed toy dinosaur. Edmonds once explained that his name was actually spelled "Pohs Paws", because that is "Swap Shop" backwards. Another person named was 'Eric' (Ilett), the often-referred to but never seen technician whose job was to lower a plastic globe containing postcards sent in by viewers as answers to competitions. Eric Ilett performed a similar task on the BBC's Ask The Family when technical assistance was required as part of the programme.

The content of the programme included music, visits from celebrities, competitions, and cartoons. There was also coverage of news and issues relevant to children, presented by John Craven, building on his profile as the presenter of John Craven's Newsround.

The cornerstone, however, was the Swaporama element, hosted by Chegwin, who was very rarely in the studio. An outside broadcast unit would travel to different locations throughout the country where children could swap their belongings with others. This proved to be one of the most popular aspects of the show, often achieving gatherings of more than 2,000 children. Generally, the primary purpose of the BBC OB unit was to broadcast a sporting event at that Swaporama venue later that day. This allowed Swap Shop to utilise the same unit and save programming costs which would otherwise be prohibitive.

The telephone number for show was 01 811 8055[2][3] spoken in the correct format of "oh one, eight double one, eight oh five five" rather than ending with 'double five' or containing 'eight one one'. Though this phone number has now passed into legend and can be quoted by every fortysomething fan, in the first series the programme had a different phone number.


Swap Shop was a success, attracting substantial ratings not only among its target audience of children, but also students and parents. It ended in 1982, to allow the presenters to move on to other projects—notably Edmonds, who became one of the highest-profile TV presenters in the UK. It was replaced by a series of similar programmes, most notably Saturday Superstore, Going Live! and Live & Kicking.

This first ever question for the live audience was, 'Where will the next Olympic games be held (1980)'. Moscow was the answer.

Swap Shop is poorly represented in the BBC archive. For some time it was believed that either the programmes were never routinely recorded in the first place, or they had been wiped on the orders of the BBC's Archive Selector Adam Lee in 1993. The truth, as related by ex-Blue Peter editor Richard Marson on the archive television forum The Mausoleum Club in 2006, is that almost every edition of Swap Shop was recorded in full every week onto two 90-minute Quad tapes. These tapes were held by the BBC until the late 1980s, at which time the Deputy Head of Children's Television, Roy Thompson, allowed many of them to be wiped and sold to Australia as recycled stock. Although Quad tape was considered obsolete in the UK, Australia was still using it extensively at that time, and as the Swap Shop tapes had no physical splices in them, they were considered ideal for re-use.[4]

As a consequence of this action, many of the clips used in the retrospective It Started With Swap Shop and as extras on some DVD releases of other BBC shows had to be taken from domestic video recordings that had survived in private hands. Amongst the editions wiped were those featuring appearances by Blondie, XTC, Trumpton creator Gordon Murray, and numerous cast and crew members of Doctor Who.

On 20 December 2007, the BBC announced that Swap Shop was returning to BBC Two for a 13 week run.[5] Barney Harwood presented the new show with Basil Brush. The new show is titled Basil's Swap Shop. The first series went well so the BBC commissioned a second series of the Saturday mornings series.

It Started With Swap Shop[edit]

A special programme celebrating the 30th anniversary of BBC children's Saturday morning shows was recorded in December 2006. The show, called It Started With Swap Shop, was made by Noel Edmonds' Unique TV company. Highlights of the programme saw the original presenting team reunited, other presenters from its successor shows Saturday Superstore, Going Live! and Live & Kicking making an appearance and celebrity fans came along to 'make a swap'.[6]

The 130 minute programme was recorded in front of a studio audience at BBC Television Centre on 15 December 2006 and was broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 28 December 2006 at 9.00pm with a shortened repeat (110 minutes) on Sunday 31 December 2006 at 6.10pm, again on BBC Two. The shortened version of the programme was broadcast on BBC Four on 28 May 2007 at 7.00pm as part of the channel's Children's Television On Trial season.

Other than the original Swap Shop team of Noel Edmonds, John Craven, Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin, Eric, Lamb and Posh Paws, live appearances were made by Mike Read, Andi Peters, Emma Forbes, Trevor Neal and Simon Hickson. A recorded contribution was made by Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene. Telephone calls (some prerecorded) were taken from Delia Smith, Dame Edna Everage and Sir Cliff Richard. Other guests included Johnny Ball, Nicki Chapman, Fearne Cotton, Lenny Henry, Arlene Phillips, Chris Moyles and Michael Crawford who appeared on a video link from Australia. A surprise appearance came from Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen as part of Trev and Simon's Draper Brothers sketch.


Swap Shop was so popular that during its run 4 annuals were published.[7]

The publishing dates for the books were as follows:

  • Book 1 – November 1978
  • Book 2 – September 1979
  • Book 3 – September 1980
  • Book 4 – November 1981

The annuals are full of quizzes, funny stories, pop group pictures, knitting patterns plus features on the shows stars.

Each book has presenter photos in which the hosts are seen separately as a comedy character. A memorable example of this is Book 4 which features Noel Edmonds, then in his 30s, as traditional English schoolboy Harry Copter. The character of Harry Copter is referenced throughout the annual, following a humorous split screen interview by Noel on the programme. The fictional character's name is a pun on the host's love of helicopters. This comedic picture of Noel has now made Book 4 extremely collectable.


  1. ^ Swap Shop – Last Ever Episode on YouTube
  2. ^ "Calling Up Swap Shop". Saturday Mornings - A celebration of BBC Saturday Morning television since 1976. 
  3. ^ "Give Us A Call On...". Saturday Mornings. 
  4. ^ "Junked BBC Childrens Shows". The Mausoleum Club Forum. 2006. 
  5. ^ "Basil Brush brings back Swap Shop". BBC News. 20 December 2007. 
  6. ^ "It Started With... Swap Shop". Saturday Mornings. 
  7. ^ "Archive - Books". Saturday Mornings. Archived from the original on 16 January 2007. 

External links[edit]